Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
The Thin Man

Saturday, July 29, 2017

If Women Don't Look At Men's Shoes First, They Should

When's the last time you walked into a shoe store and found a clerk who knew his or her stuff...or even found a clerk at all?



While we're on the subject, when's the last time you regarded shoes as a top priority and were willing to hunt till you got the right pair, regardless of the cost?

A screaming purple pinkie toe last night straightened me out on the subject of shoes. My new job, you see, keeps me on my feet all day and I walk between 8-10 miles per shift. So, naturally, I jumped at the company's offer to provide a pair of slip-resistant work shoes from their mail order supplier. What size? Hell, I've been sold 11.5 or 12 size for all my adult life. So I ordered 12's, thinking that I could return them or slip in some insoles. Relief either way from the toe-pinching sneakers I'd bought for a song at Ross Dress For Less.

Smart women will avoid all men who buy mail order shoes and/or wear any shoe that doesn't fit.

Tell me about that! For a week I'd been wearing the poorly fitting but 'free' work shoes, in discomfort from the start. By last night, I could barely walk and came home to see that my right pinkie toe had turned to a dark purple bordering on black. The pinkie looked far worse than this and other toes too were afllicted with blisters.



My brain teemed with the worst panicky thoughts. Might I lose the toe...or foot? Would I lose my job if I took time off work? What if I needed a couple of weeks? Could I afford a first-rate, properly fitting pair of shoes--and where would I find them? In my experience, department stores were as useless as discount shoe outlets. 

Late night decisions: come morning, I'd call work, explain my situation and spend as much time as I needed to find my first real pair of quality shoes.

Bright and early, I called work, encouraged to take whatever time I needed. Next, Lady Google: I started by researching a store I'd passed by many times: The Walking Company. Their reviews were strong and I noted that they specialized in what they call custom orthotics: insoles tailored to an individual's foot size and walking patterns.

This store was my first, and last, stop. The prices were steeper than I'd hoped, but I let the sales clerk do his thing. He showed me several styles offering a wider 'shoe box' (front of the shoe), so that my toes wouldn't be pinched. Then he showed me how they size one's foot and pick the right orthotic, using a digital screening device. 

I tried the shoe on without the orthotic--then with. 


pinkie toes


Tomorrow I'll return to work, when the pinkie's toned down from purple to a paler shade of pink.

And this is good. But better still is the change in my outlook that came with the shoe. And here are the reasons I think that women should first check out a man's shoes:

1) Good shoes aren't accessories. They're fundamental reflections of a man's care and respect for his bod.
2) Good shoes aren't an extravagance. A man who buys and looks after the best is an enlightened pragmatist. For cheap shoes end up costing more in foot, knee or back pain...and eventually doctor's bills.
3) Good shoes are spirit as much as fashion statements. A solid, first-class, grounded look paves the way for a splash of color or a touch of whimsy elsewhere. 

So, I guess, in a way I need to thank the purple pinkie toe that filled my eyes with tears.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Broadway Debut

A bit later in my life I've had the good luck to go Broadway.



Now, Broadway can be anywhere and mine happens to be in Seattle. It can also be in almost any venue: from writing to acting to singing to driving a limo.

Broadway's where to become a great star you'd better damned well act like one from the moment your feet hit the ground. And my true debut on Broadway came about in an unusual way and in an unusual place I will call simply The Store.

Compared to The Store, any other job I've had has been at best Off-Broadway. And more than a few were Off-Off. But the lines in The Store are huge...the energy is dazzling...and the stakes are as high as the profits. On my first work day--after a pleasant, low-key orientation--I got the message loud and clear: I needed to learn quickly and was expected to work on my own within a week. I needed to move quickly and constantly strive to do more. The first two rites of passage were the three month and nine-month reviews.

I went home exhausted but with a solid checklist. Lessons that can apply to any form of Broadway

1) You are you what you pretend to be--so behave like a star to become one.
2) Move, speak and act calmly and decisively, no matter how flustered you feel.
3) Put a positive spin on everything. You don't feel exhausted, you're 'getting your legs'. You don't feel confused, you're working it out.
4) Never blame your age or inexperience for any shortcomings or slip-ups.
5) Over and over, with gusto, repeat these words: It's



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Calorie Stalking, Nate Miyaki and MyFitnessPal

There are those we've never met who change our lives forever. Currently ruling the roost for me is San Francisco fitness guru Nate Miyaki. Why? Good question. Two reasons:

1) Nate's book The 6-Pack Checklist is the best thing I've found on the subject:



Point by point, he tackles all the things you need to know in a slender book that's a model of both clarity and depth. You begin with a daily calorie deficit if you're looking to lose fat and weight...find the right balance for you between protein, carbs and natural fat...find the right feeding timeline for you to stagger your calories through the day and night, always staying in the black...and work out 2-3 times a week, adding cardio at the end of every session to keep your body from feeding on muscle, not fat.

I know. Your head is spinning, just thinking of  how you'll keep track of all that--after you've done all the necessary math: workout frequency/intensity...your daily calorie goal...the infernal ratios of protein to carbs to fat..




Me too? You betcha. Physically active since my twenties (but over-fond of the bottle back then)...I've had one fitness dream since my thirties: a lean-bean look with six-pack abs. I've come close several times, though always retaining a mini-roll I couldn't lose. More often, I've come closer than many. But always I've slipped and returned to the fold of big-armed but thick-waisted men tormented by dreams of that elusive six-pack.

I couldn't understand the math and lacked a sustainable diet. Thanks to Miyaki, I've now 'got' the math down and have a diet that works--even at 1870 calories daily (my deficit mode for now). But I had miserable memories of all the logs I've tried to keep--and they could fill a bookshelf! Sweat-stained workout logs, abandoned because of the effort of finding the right pages for last weight used and last number of reps. Diet logs abandoned because I had no idea of the fat/protein/carb content of my meals and snacks.

But I trusted Nate Miyaki, who walks the talk and also talks the walk.


Nate stood firm on the need to have a plan and to log our efforts daily. Log, at least, till we reach our goal and know in our blood and bones exactly what we're eating. This is done through daily practice and logging calorie counts. But this needn't be a log nightmare. He suggested a phone app that was new to me: MyFitnessPal.



And this baby has made all the difference. MFP knows the nutritional breakdown of nearly everything I eat: from a Kind snack bar to an Oikos Triple Zero yogurt to a veggie burger to a small /Caesar salad (no dressing). I receive kudos for wise protein or carb choices. Alerts for sugar (even fruit sugar) and fat warnings. Cardio calorie burns (this morning's 45 minute brisk walk) are deducted from my calorie goal. My walk, for example, up and down some San Francisco-style stairs, credited me with 220 calories.

When I think of how stupidly hard I've worked for too many years, I could weep. But because of all those failures, I do have it down in my blood and my bones:

--At least 80% of abdominal work is done or undone in the kitchen.
--10,00 crunches won't defeat daily scones or Oreos.
--Abs needn't be worked any harder or more often than any other muscle.
--Miyaki is right on the money with his 'inverted pyramid'. He turns the traditional big breakfast/medium lunch/salad for dinner approach on its head. And I knew from experience how miserable I always was starving myself every day after noon, avoiding dinners with family or friends. I eat mainly fruit in the mornings, enjoy a light lunch (a whole wheat pita veggiewich with an apple and some shredded carrots, an Oikos Triple Zero yogurt topped with some crushed walnuts)...and save the bulk of my calories. So far I've succeeded in always staying 300-500 calories under my limit.

                                                                      *****

          Enough about me, though. Let's talk about you. 

You may not want or need a 6-pack. You may recoil in horror from a daily cal count of 2000 or less. And I salute you if you do. At my age, I don't need the competition from scores of washboard-abbed young buck. Seriously, whatever your goal, you should still give this cat Nate Miyaki a look. He'll help you find the right diet for you and set you straight, in the most delightful way, about the great carb vs protein debate, among other things.

Miyaki's blog is a fun place to start:

http://natemiyaki.com/about-3/

And here's the book that got me into gear:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013SC4GOC


Sunday, June 18, 2017

On Missing The Naked Bike Race

For a moment I entertained a glum thought when asked if my weekend plans included a visit to Fremont. See, it's the Solstice weekend, including a parade and the Legendary Naked Bike Race.


And, hey, while I was there I could also visit one of Fremont's microbreweries or...

The idea of seeing a few hundred nudies on bikes doesn't really float my boat. And I no longer drink. But I entertained the glum thought nonetheless, thinking back on my more adventurous life years ago.

I hope adventures still await.  Along with a good deal more money. But once the glum thought took its leave, after a stern mental boot to its butt, I looked forward to the quieter adventures of this weekend:

--The continued fight against ageism as I attempt to change jobs before my office moves to Renton.
--The slow, demanding work of typing the first draft of my WIP.
--The scores of challenges involved in producing a spin-off from an established series.
--The daily task of staying true to a demanding new eating plan
--The weekly task of adhering to a rougher, more strategic workout regimen

I know, I know. That sounds boring to you. And, for all I know, it may well be.



But there are internal adventures, as challenging and thrilling, as climbing the Alps. Or engaging in a cage fight with a bruiser twice your size. Staying sober, getting thinner, completing a tricky new book...To my changed way of thinking, these are at least as cool and worthwhile as watching naked bods on bikes.

But nowhere near, I'll still admit, mud wrestling with a goddess. 



Back to work. My mind's clear if not clean.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Breaking a 10-day Fast




Breaking a fast is an art, and a challenge, in itself. First, the stomach will have shrunk and it mustn't be overloaded. Equally important, the body will take whatever we put into it as a fabulous reward. So we'll suffer worse than indigestion if we start off with scones, chips, candy or other old familiar treats.

Some recommend taking up to 4 days breaking a fast, beginning with juices, then adding fruit, yogurt, yogurt topped with nuts, then advancing to whole foods gradually.
Wikipedia offers this detailed plan:

http://www.wikihow.com/Break-a-Fast

I modified this as follows: light juices on days 8-10, yogurt on day 11, etc.

Observations and conclusions:
1) It isn't that much harder to fast for ten days than it is for three. That is, on one condition: try to arrange it so that the first three days--the hardest--are dealt with when you're off work. For a longer fast, even arrange a couple of days off at the end, when you're starting to feel faint.
2) Weight loss has always been about ten pounds at the end of the third day. At the end of the tenth day, I'd lost 25 pounds.
3) Even a 3-day fast would be an excellent way for anyone who's overweight to kick-start a weight loss program.
4) Cravings create cravings...so cultivate great cravings. The long fast was, for me, a chance to reprogram my appetite. And it's been working wonderfully. I feel no sense of deprivation. I don't miss the salt-laden frozen foods I cooked. I look forward to fruit, cold oatmeal, salads and mainly veggie treats, a little chicken and/or cheese as a condiment.
5) A positive long-range plan is also a must. Any of my past attempts to become a Vegan or raw foodie or 100% vegetarian were doomed by my cravings for things that others ate...and which I had enjoyed. The hostility and ridicule I met with didn't help much either. But in the end, it was my show--and I couldn't sustain completely exclusive approaches. If you too have ever fallen off the wagon...

There's this book that's turned my thinking around:




https://www.amazon.com/VB6-Before-Weight-Restore-Health/dp/0385344740/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496608497&sr=1-1&keywords=vb6

It's misleading to call this a diet, it's not. The VB6 Solution would be more accurate: no calorie counting or forbidden foods involved. You don't become a Vegan but you eat like one until supper, or 6--then you're free to add, if you like, dairy and meat. Till 6-ish, you eat fruit, salad, whole grains...

This works for me because I don't need to avoid dinners with friends or family. And it works because following a plant-strong diet has erased the old cravings for starch, sweets, meat...

Ah, it's Sunday. 2 p.m. Time for a lunch of low salt lentil soup, salad and a meatless Burger.

In another week or two, I'll need to new pants, another size smaller.

Banzai!


Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Fast Has Slowed Me...Nicely

If you've ever thought about fasting, know this: It's much easier after the third day. And if you decide on a longer fast, there's nothing to it on the ninth--except for your moving more slowly. And needing a few extra naps.

But why would you want to fast, you may ask, for even a couple of days. Here are the best of all reasons for me:



and



Breaking the chains was my prime mover this time. In the past, I'd pulled off two long fasts like this. And the results had amazed me: from weight loss to improved complexion to an augmented sense of well-being. In each case, when I broke the fast, I found myself craving superior food--fruits and salads and natural soups--instead of SAD (the Standard American Diet). And in each case I'd lost about thirty pounds in 10 days. I ended up with my own law:

Cravings create cravings...so cultivate great cravings.

But in each case, I drifted back to SAD--a personal or family crisis...or too many little daily slips to pacify my friends (Go on, have a piece of cake!). Thereafter, my many shorter fasts from one to three days reflected the power of the chains. Also, the shorter fasts were compromised: undertaken to lose weight, not for the positive reasons that launched the last two big ones.

Lesson: successful fasting is not an act of Not, not eating things we enjoy:


Instead, it pays to turn our thoughts to all the foods we can enjoy--in just a few more days--once we've broken the chains of SAD...and our taste buds start to tingle at the thought of superior food. Think: there'd be no point in fasting for any length of time if we returned to the same foods that had run us down and fattened us and enslaved us for so long. 

My own ten-day fast ends tomorrow. I know from experience and research to break the fast lowly--3-4 days starting with juices, then slowly adding fruit...then yogurt...yogurt with chopped walnuts...then moving on steadily. So some weight loss will continue for that time.

But my steely sights are set on my master goal: finding and staying with the foods that are right for my body and soul.   And when I look, I see a mainly plant-based diet with meat now and then as condiment, not as the main course.



Next week I'll post my conclusions, plus tips and lessons I've learned through the years.

Today I'm enjoying the gifts of the fast:
--The right knee that's been stiff for ages is flexible again, pain-free.
--My metabolism feels slower. I feel relaxed and non-hyper.
--My concentration feels enhanced.
--I've felt a fresh surge in confidence with each day of the fast.

Till next week!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

On the Move Again

Some dreams take longer than others, as you already know. 30 months ago, I escaped from Charlotte, with a purple trunk and four boxes on board a cross-country train. Destination: Seattle.

My dreams: a studio or apartment in Capitol Hill





and a job at the Elliott Bay book store.



Things didn't go quite as planned. To get my feet, I took a studio in the 'historic'--old and sketchy--part of town known as Pioneer Square.


And, no job offer from the bookstore, I worked at a couple of loser jobs before finding an okay one in...Capitol Hill. Terrific, except for a couple of things: I'd grown tired of seeing throngs of Walking Dead homeless and drug dealers in Pioneer Square. And my workplace is moving to Renton in late August--a three-hour round-trip daily commute.



The time had come for action--the all-out, full-speed, damn the torpedoes kind.
1) At work I learned from a coworker of a studio just a few blocks from the office.
2) I viewed it and decided to take it the next day, though it's a few hundred bucks more than I've been paying. I could make up that difference, I figured, by no longer using Uber.
3) I completed the online application.
4) I reapplied at Elliott Bay Book Company, this time handing the application to a manager.
5) I gave the necessary 2-week notice on my month-to-month studio.
6) I began checking online for cheap but well-reviewed movers.
7) I started scrapping all furniture and furnishings except for the best of the best.

And on and on and on. Before the move to Seattle, I'd needed six months to pack and prepare. This time I have just a couple of weeks. 

Next up: a new job in Capitol Hill.

It's good to be back in action again.